The Atlanta Falcons walked over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning their regular season finale by a final score of 45-24. Atlanta ends the regular season with a 10-6 record and a wildcard ticket to the playoffs. The Buccaneers finish up with a disappointing 4-12 record, launching an offseason of soul searching for the franchise.
Falcons running back Michael Turned carried the ball 17 times for a 172 yards and two touchdowns. The highlight of Turner's day was an 81-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Quarterback Matt Ryan passed for just 106 yards and two touchdowns. He was pulled when the Falcons had a 42-7 lead. Julio Jones looked exactly like the wide receiver the Falcons traded up for in the 2011 NFL Draft, scoring twice and catching four balls for 76 yards.
The Falcons defense sacked Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman just twice, but Freeman struggled throughout the game. After a promising sophomore campaign in 2010, Freeman put the finishing touches on a downer of a third year with three interceptions in the season finale. The Falcons turned one of those interceptions into a touchdown. Freeman did throw for 274 yards and two touchdowns.
Atlanta opens the playoffs next weekend as a wildcard entrant. They will play the winner of the NFC East on the road.
Tampa Bay now grapples with the question of whether or not to fire head coach Raheem Morris, who by most accounts is a dead man walking.